Europe, Britain and America: Extracting a European voice from the historical debate about mission.

Author: Dr Jonathan Ingleby, Head of Mission Studies, Redcliffe College


Europeans, including the British, have long gazed wonderingly (and some would say enviously) at Americans, convinced that they are that tricky phenomenon, the neighbour who is like us but, at the same time, somehow very different. Ever since the young American nation emerged, we Europeans have been busy analysing ‘American exceptionalism’.1 And we are amazed that a society which had its origins, generally speaking, in European culture, has been so changed by its experience of the New World. Also we are not quite sure what the relationship between us should be. Are we friends, or rivals or just plain incompatible?

The issue that this essay wants to raise is whether these questions have any importance for the way we think about and conduct mission today. Is there a European way? Is it different from an American way? Are two voices better than one, and has one obscured the other? Another question might be: is there any sense in which Europe speaks with a unified voice? Are the British, for example, while so obviously part of Europe geographically, more akin in their thinking to their American cousins than their European neighbours? In the past, as we shall see, many Continentals spoke of the ‘Anglo-Americans’2 as if they were one constituency and Europe was another.

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